DPM Wong answers questions on future of work at IPS Conference, here are some insights


Earlier this week, Deputy Prime Minister (DPM) Lawrence Wong gave a closing dialogue at the Singapore Perspectives 2023 conference organised by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS). 

He also participated in a Q&A session where he addressed a multitude of questions on the changing nature of work and the challenges ahead. 

Here are some insights we gleaned over the hour-long session. 

Instead of comparing, focus on yourself instead

How would you go about changing society’s view of success and obsession with comparisons? The moderator, Ms Debra Soon, started the ball rolling.

In reply, DPM Wong acknowledges that while some forms of comparisons, such as work appraisal, are inevitable, others are unnecessary.

One such example he gave is the typical Lunar New Year chitchat. An annual charade where parents exchange titbits about their child’s results and aspirations and use the information to construct an imaginary ranking of where their child stands.

Endless social comparisons like that, noted DPM Wong, is not healthy.

“If we get overwhelmed by such comparisons (young people in particular), then I don’t think it makes for a very healthy society or mindset.”

According to DPM Wong, the most important comparison is the one we have with ourselves. For instance, look back on your achievements and ask yourself if you could have done better instead of being fixated on your colleagues’ performances.

“We should focus on our own lives and try to do better over a period of time.”

This is the kind of attitude and mindset that will allow us to live a more fulfilling life, said DPM Wong.

Work is not just a source of income

“A lot of people recognise that the minute they stop working, that’s when their health deteriorates very quickly… Work is more than just a source of income. It provides dignity and purpose. There is something fundamental and important about work.”

DPM Wong said in reply to a question by Singapore Democratic Party’s Dr Paul Tambyah, who attended the forum in his professional capacity. He questioned the wisdom behind continuous retraining and upskilling to keep people working.

In Singapore, there is a deeply ingrained notion that older workers have no choice but to keep working because of a lack of financial support.

However, this is a narrative that is not only incorrect but outdated. Like what DPM Wong mentioned, work provides not just money. It also gives us purposefulness in life.

Therefore, raising the retirement and encouraging workers to retrain, reskill and continue working are not policies of a government hellbent on destroying the retirement dreams of Singaporeans.

Viewed from another perspective, working helps to ward off idleness and loneliness, which are silent killers in their own right.

Working in old age is an option, and for those who choose not to, the government will always make sure that every Singaporean can live a life of dignity.

Of course, the nature of work may also change for older folks, he added.

Giving everyone peace of mind for retirement

On retirement, DPM Wong said that the current CPF system was designed to ensure that everyone who enters the workforce today and stays in stable employment will be taken care of by the PAP Government. 

“Working consistently does not mean you have to be working 100 per cent of the time. There may be occasions when you are out of work or in between jobs. But so long as you work consistently, you can be assured of a basic retirement,” said DPM Wong. 

In addition, DPM also touched on the plight of gig economy workers. Despite toiling away, many do not build up sufficient savings for their retirement. 

DPM Wong said in his earlier speech that the PAP Government has accepted the Advisory Committee on Platform Workers‘ recommendation to have a proper CPF system for these workers to safeguard their future. 

As for older Singaporeans in their 50s and 60s who lacked the runway to benefit from Workfare or the Progressive Wage Model, DPM Wong assured us that the PAP Government is working on “strengthening our retirement system and giving everyone peace of mind for their retirement.”

Fair, equitable workplaces for all

Asked if the government is doing enough to encourage companies to implement inclusive workplace policies for the LGBTQ + community, DPM Wong said that enshrining the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) guidelines in law should serve as a wake-up call. 

“This requires employers to act,” said DPM Wong, “To make sure that their employment practices are fair and do not discriminate.”

With the recent repeal of 377A, he added that the anti-discrimination act, which covers race, religion and age, will now include sex (different from gender) as well.

“Discrimination can take many forms and we want every employer to make sure that when they hire when they promote, when they appraise their staff it’s purely on the basis of work and merit.”

“We will continue to see how we can encourage more employers to uphold not just the letter of the law but the spirit of it to promote more inclusive workplace practices,” added DPM Wong. 

The future of work might be filled with challenges, but it is clear that the PAP Government will always ensure that Singapore remains a place where everyone can progress and forge fulfilling and dignified lives.

Cover Photo Credit: IPS via Twitter